Wishing you all the best in 2018!
As the year draws to a close, the nights are long. We have time to reflect (ok, we make time to reflect since the nights are so long!).
I hope you have had a full and fulfilling harp year. My wish for you remains primarily that you enjoy making music, that you have learned and shared and grown and loved the time at your harp.
I hope you are both pleased with your progress and that you hunger for more.
I hope as you look back over the year you see your continued development and that you have begun to form new goals. And I hope you have flourished and stabilized and that you are becoming the musician you want to be.
I hope you are happy with yourself and with your journey and with your music.
Reflect, and enjoy what you see!
As much as we talk about it, I hope you have developed an appreciation for the physical athleticism of being a musician. From carrying your harp to sitting behind it playing Carolan’s (or Handel’s Bb) Concerto – playing the harp is physically demanding! And playing it well is even more so. You need strength and stamina to get through practicing, performing or teaching. And while it is comfortable for us to focus on the “pretty” or the music, we need to face the reality – it’s a lot of work!
Given that, it’s time to acknowledge that being more physically fit will only help you play better and feel better between sessions at the harp. This doesn’t mean you need to be ready for the next Ninja Warrior casting call. Nor does it mean that you have to become a CrossFit adherent.
It just means that you should put taking care of yourself further up on your priority list. Acknowledging that this will benefit you in multiple ways. Being in better shape can only help!
There are loads of workout plans available in books, magazines and online, so you can find what works best for you. A simple and effective answer might be to just take a walk each day and spending time focusing on assuring you are actually breathing! If you want to do additional cardio or calisthenics, or weight lifting, that could also help you improve your strength which would help too.
But you don’t have to become Arnold or Richard Simmons. Be you – just a little better!
This week we celebrate Veterans Day. Originally Armistice Day celebrating the end of World War I the day eventually became a celebration of all those who had served in the US Armed Forces.
Thank you to the US Military – the largest employer of musicians in the world! And thank you to all our veterans throughout the years!
This is a great opportunity – go play at a Veterans Hospital or Nursing Home or play on the street with a sign telling people that you’re celebrating or play a benefit and donate to a Veterans charity. Snap a photo and share it with us while we show appreciation to those who pledged their lives to defend ours.
Are you ready? We know it’s coming – it happens the same time every year. It’s easy to be only sort of excited. On the one hand, it’s easy – you know all the songs and you can kind of get away with playing the same stuff every year. On the other hand, that can get sort of boring, never learning anything new and always playing the same stuff.
So, what’s a harper to do?
Well, you could take the easy way out – no one would know. You’ll entertain your audience, even if it is the curtains and the cats. You will coast through the season and all will be well. You’ll play stuff you’re comfortable playing and your stress level can stay (relatively) low. But you would know you hadn’t learned anything new.
Or you can take the difficult way and play all new music – the crazy carol written in 12/8, that jazzy arrangement of your favorite post-war song, that new, lever change filled music that was published lately. You’ll have to work really hard (actually, you should have already started), you will be stressed out nearly every time you play and you will be uncomfortable until January! But you will know that you have stretched yourself.
Maybe the best path to take is the middle road – add some new pieces while continuing to play your favorites. That way, you can have a little growth, but from a strong base. You will know you have had a little stretch and you will still be able to perform confidently.
At your various outings, play those tunes your audience will be happy to hear. And don’t forget that nothing makes Christmas music more enjoyable than mixing it with other music. Even the cats will enjoy that!
One can be a good musician even if one is not a full time professional . What makes a good musician? If you’re a regular reader, you might think that this is where I would say, “practice, practice, practice”!
But there is so much more to it than that! You see, musicianship is a journey not a destination – which is cool because it always gives you something to work toward! In that vein, here are six things that make a musician different from someone who just plays an instrument:
- Persistence and Practice. One could argue that practice is the working definition of persistence. But really, persistence involves more including focusing on continuing to grow, finding new music that inspires you, and pursuing places to play that fit your goals and still let you grow.
- Knowledge and Learning. There is so much to learn to be a better musician and real musicians are always learning. Whether it is gaining new tunes, mastering a new technique (coupled hands anyone? solid harmonics? you get the idea), or studying music theory, gaining knowledge can only result in stronger playing.
- Community. Even soloists are part of a community! We have communities of harp players as well as the greater communities of musicians (orchestra, sessions, workshop participants, etc.) and the environments in which we play – those communities help us grow and provide milieux in which development can be nurtured. Communities give us a base for our other developments.
- Listening. Just as we make sounds, we listen to sounds (music) from others (and ourselves). And as we listen, we learn more about music, what we think of it, what we like (and don’t like) and other perspectives on the music we make – you cannot listen to music enough!
- Be willing to take (and use) critique. Whether it is family members, audiences, or judges, gaining feedback, analyzing those inputs and using that information is a sure way to become a better musician.
- Enjoy the challenges you set for yourself – related to all of these is setting challenges for ourselves and enjoying stepping up to them. These challenges don’t have to be big – they just have to be yours (and they do have to be challenging!) so that we can learn and enjoy them.
So, the next time you think you’re not a musician, check to be sure your wrong! And just keep being you while you continue to develop into a good musician.